Zookeepers at the Toronto Zoo have noticed that two African penguins, Buddy and Pedro, are not just inseparable, but also show signs of mating behaviors, The Star reports. They would not be the first gay penguins, as gay penguin pairs in New York, Japan, Germany and Sea World Orlando have all made headlines.
Two male chinstrap penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo, Roy and Silo, incubated an egg and raised the chick, named Tango, together as part of an experiment a few years ago. The best-selling children’s book And Tango Makes Three was written about the penguin family.
However, Buddy and Pedro’s story might not have such a happy ending. The pair apparently have very good genes, and the zoo plans to separate them and pair them with female penguins for breeding. African penguins are endangered, so the plan to separate the duo for breeding is part of a plan among zoos to help species survive.
Both Buddy, who is 20, and Pedro, who is 10, were bred in captivity as part of a group of 12 penguins – six female, six male – that came to Toronto from the US as part of the African penguin exhibit that opened at the zoo in May.
Buddy and Pedro came from Toledo, Ohio where they were members of an all-male flock. When it comes to describing sexual orientation in animals, scientists do not use the terms gay or straight, so in zoo-speak, their relationship is called “pair bonding,” and has not changed since arriving in Toronto.
The mating behaviors that Buddy and Pedro exhibit include making a “braying” sound, similar to a donkey, as a mating call. They stand alone together, defend their territory and groom each other.
The zookeepers are hesitant to discuss the issue of their relationship with the public, but they have all noticed the penguin pair’s bond. “It’s a complicated issue, but they seem to be in a loving relationship of some sort,’’ Joe Torzsok, chair of the Toronto zoo board, told The Star.
It is not unusual for some animal species to show signs of homosexuality as giraffes, monkeys and dolphins have all been known to bond with the same sex.
The African penguin population, which is native to South Africa, was in the millions centuries ago, but has dropped quickly, and continues to decline by a rate of around 2% each year. In the late 1990’s there was a slight recovery of their population, with 224,000 in existence, but oil pollution and a decline in their natural food supply caused by commercial fishing are major threats to these penguins. Because the African penguins are endangered, Buddy and Pedro's keepers think it necessary to separate them for breeding.
Check out the video of Buddy and Pedro from The Star below: